The Pats finished a 16-0 regular season, but it took a nearly perfect game to beat the inspired Giants. The Pats had no fumbles, no interceptions, only 42 yards in penalties and punted just twice. Sounds like the line score on a route, but this was a game that wasn't over until a Giant onside kick failed with less than a minute left.
The Giant defense held the Brady Bunch to field goals most of the time for nearly three quarters and the G-men led with just over eleven minutes to go. Eli Manning played the best game of his life. His one interception came on an aggressive throw when the Giants trailed in the fourth quarter and needed to take some chances.
The biggest play of the game, and biggest mistake by the Giants, was not the interception. With about eleven minutes left in the fourth quarter Randy Moss ran a deep out to the right sideline, his defender fell after contact on the cut, and Moss was alone with a soft, floating pass from Brady headed towards him, but short. Instead of moving his body all the way back to the ball, Moss stopped short, reached out and pulled away toward the goal as soon as the ball touched his fingers. The result was an embarrassing drop on a ball the fourth grade punt, pass and kick winner would have handled. You could almost hear Moss pleading with Brady in the huddle after this fiasco, "Just get me the ball!" The defensive alignment gave Moss a cushion on the next play, despite the fact that bumping him on the line had been the only way to contain him all year, and Moss was off to the races, straight down the right sideline, past the last defender with little more than a head fake, deep strike from Brady, 65 yard touch down.
The Patriots bounced and grinned after the score like an eighth grade PAL team. It was actually fun to watch this team escape the grim hooded world of Bill Belichick for a moment and enjoy their success. No scripted celebration, just eleven little boy smiles at the emotional end of a big play and a big season.
It was also a very bad sign for the Giants. Despite the eleven minutes left on the scoreboard the tide had turned and the Giants knew it just as well as the smiling Pats. The next Giant offensive series featured a muffed snap, a time-out because the G-men couldn't get the right play called and a shift in focus from the assignment to the scoreboard. The Giants weren't giving up, but all of the sudden they were feeling the pressure and the Patriots looked .... perfect.